Photograph of the week: Great Fountain Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA


They say good things come to those who wait and that is exactly what we are having to do at the moment. And while we don’t (seriously) propose waiting 50 years to see a geyser erupt – quite literally: the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park lay dormant from 1911 to 1961 without so much as a steaming burp – when it comes to the Great Fountain Geyser, your patience will more than likely be rewarded.

Yellowstone Great Fountain Geyser, Wyoming

A fountain-type geyser located in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, on Firehole Lake Drive, Great Fountain Geyser has a reputation for semi-predictable eruptions and reliability. So much so that it is the only Lower Geyser Basin feature for which Yellowstone park rangers will actually make predictions. How so? With geyser eruptions happening every nine to 15 hours, and the show generally lasting for one to two hours, it can be reasonably predicted within one to two hours.

This makes Great Fountain a great favourite for geyser-geeks seeking “sure-thing” sightings of nature’s tea kettles boiling over. (Disclaimer: this is Nature we are speaking about… she’s a capricious one and nothing in her realm is a ‘sure-thing’. So while predictions can be made, the only truly reliable prediction is that it may or may not actually happen.) That said, all things being equal, Mother Nature being in a mood to humour eruption hungry visitors, and ranger predictions hitting the mark, if you do visit Great Fountain at the right time you are in for a treat.

Great Fountain’s eruptions of shooting water and strange-smelling, spouting towers of steam generally reach height ranges of about 75 feet (23 m) to 100 feet (30 m). While this doesn’t seem spectacularly tall, just remember that Great Fountain has also been known to enter into unpredictable activity phases, such as a ‘Superburst’ in which its water will shoot 150-230 feet in the air, putting it in the same category as Steamboat and other Giant Geysers. And if you’re really lucky? You’ll get to see a ‘Blue Bubble Phase’, during which a large steam bubble domes on the surface, expanding until the whole surface is uplifted in a great bursting bubble of brightly flashing blue. Great Fountain has also been known to have “wild” phases, where its eruptions will burst for hours on end. Besides, Great Fountain Geyser sits in the middle of one of the prettiest sinter formations in the park, with a series of terraced concentric reflecting pools around the geyser.

In short, there is the potential to see plenty of Nature’s wonder at Great Fountain Geyser… if you’re just prepared to wait for it.

And if you’re not? Well, there are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else on earth, with approximately 100 geothermal features (including fumaroles, hot springs, geysers and mud pots) in the Lower Geyser Basin alone – and all within five square miles of Great Fountain Geyser. Go. Wait. Or don’t. You will see something worth writing home about.

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Comments (4)

  1. Claire Marston says:

    I’ve always been amazed with the idea of Yellowstone National Park and just how big it is. It’s mostly Wyoming but goes through Idaho and Montana as well, isn’t that right? The geyser would be very impressive to see erupting and the photo here is brilliant. The monochrome works well to make it more dramatic. The regularity of eruptions makes it more appealing too, so you’ll know with more certainty that you’ll see it if you go at the right time and not be disappointed. I never would have imagined it could shoot up to 230 feet into the air though, that’s crazy. I also had no clue that there were so many of these geysers in the park.

    • Jason says:

      If you ever get a chance to visit this area of America, you definitely should. It’s wide open and beautiful and one of the more unique places in the entire country. I’m sure it will be a while before there are lots of tourists there too.

  2. D. Harrison says:

    Well, I’ve visited a lot of the national parks, but have yet to set foot at Yellowstone. Now I am really wondering why I’ve never been there at all! Perhaps the timing tor the choices of my travel companions. Anyway, this unprecedented times has certainly made me think about my travel choices for when we can all get back to it. I would certainly be thinking about visiting those places I haven’t been to but have always wanted to go to. I’ve always read about the geysers at Yellowstone (I used to watch Yogi Bear a lot) and haven’t seen one in real life, so I would like to be able to do that as well. Fascinating bit about the Blue Bubble Phase. I would want to catch that, but I’m guessing it’s hard to come by, as you said, with Mother Nature there’s no “sure thing”.

  3. Bryan Myers says:

    You can’t go wrong here. It’s a wild place out in the middle of nowhere basically. I like the idea of visiting places you haven’t been to before once this is all over! I want to keep that in mind for myself.

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